Road to the Emmys 2012: The Supporting Actor & Actress

“Luck,” Nick Nolte’s first foray into television since “Rich Man, Poor Man” nearly four decades ago, was going swimmingly for thesp until the show’s abrupt cancellation in March.

“We were having so much fun because the characters were so intriguing,” Nolte says. “We just didn’t know where it was going to go. I had forgotten about television having that aspect. In film, you always know.”

Just six weeks after renewing it for a second season, though, HBO axed the David Milch-penned racetrack drama because three horses had died during production.

“It didn’t hit me for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden you just didn’t have anything to do,” Nolte says. “It was very peculiar. Everything that you had invested in the character started to unravel.”

Nolte played Walter Smith, a down-and-out horse trainer who enigmatically mumbles his way through life. The role was based, he says, on legendary trainer Jack Van Berg, who spent time with the thesp prior to filming.

“All these trainers are down there racing and competing with each other,” Nolte says. “They don’t divulge a whole lot to anybody and they keep it close to the vest. I found that intriguing in the sense that it fed over into his own real life. His difficulty was in opening up as a human being.”

Despite the cancellation, Nolte says he would look forward to doing another serial drama.

“None of us felt like the show was a failure,” he says. “We had become really comfortable with what we were doing and excited about where it would go. It was kind of a tragic affair that it ended that way. That show had all the potential in the world.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more